Even your overstuffed e-reader can't relieve the groaning bookshelves and towers of dust-magnet dust covers crowding you out of your overpriced, undersized apartment. New Yorkers love their books, but hoarding is so not cool. Donation is. You can drop off the read-it-not-going-back-there titles in any number of places to share the wealth with people who can't shell out the big bucks for a new copy, or who have no access to a bookstore.
Libraries Are for Books
Oddly enough, the New York Public Library doesn't encourage used book donations at most of its branches. But, in the heart of literary Manhattan, a library that's been around for more than a century, the St. Agnes Library on Amsterdam Avenue and West 81st Street, runs a twice-a-month used book sale in the basement that is a bibliophile's dream. Donated books must be in good condition, and you should check their schedule before going since city budget constraints affect their open hours. You'll get a tax receipt and the satisfaction of helping one of the city's great institutions provide more services -- and more new books for voracious readers. Buy a few used books for yourself on a Wednesday or a Saturday during the 40,000-volume sale; dates are always posted in the library.
Goodwill and Salvation Army
Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army have drop-off locations all over New York, in all boroughs, where you can hand over your clean used books along with the kids' outgrown clothes. They won't take dated encyclopedias or marked-up textbooks, and, because collection areas in some stores have neither shelves nor bins, bag or box the books before donating them. Consider actually delivering at a center instead of risking book damage by tossing your donation into nearby outdoor drop-off bins. Save time by itemizing the books you donate before requesting a tax receipt. Housing Works Book Cafe, which supports people living with HIV/AIDS, takes donations of books, galleys and unmarked textbooks at the SoHo cafe-bookstore site during regular hours.
Books for Kids, Books Through Bars
The Books for Kids Build-a-Home-Library Program accepts only donations of new, hardcover books suitable for children up to 6 years of age. The program aims to fill homes with books to encourage early literacy for children who might not have access to reading materials or encouragement to read. They prefer donations of multiple copies for the reading locations that serve 50 to 100 children at a time. Contact them for details before planning a donation. NYC Books Through Bars collects and sends books to people who are incarcerated in all but 10 state prison systems. Volunteers to the program take requests from prisoners, sort, package and ship books directly to individuals. Books through Bars can't accept hardcover books, children's books, magazines or mass market paperbacks. They do get a lot of requests for dictionaries. Drop off during specific hours at a site in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
ReLIT Transit Handouts
ReLIT NY is an all-volunteer book-sharing organization that collects used books and hands them out to commuters. Once a month, the volunteers hit subway stations with boxes of donated books and let riders choose a novel or poetry collection -- whatever is in the box -- for some subterranean literary engagement. Book drops are housed in Whole Foods markets, usually at the exit; Union Square and the West 97th Street markets are two with a lively donation pile going most of the time. If you happen to be food shopping and spy a tempting bodice-ripper on your way out -- you're a commuter, go ahead, help yourself.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .